Southern California golf on a budget

By Rex HoggardFebruary 3, 2009, 5:00 pm
torrey pines aerial
Torrey Pines is just one of So Cal's public gems

TORREY PINES, Calif. – In the name of full economic disclosure, there is nothing – short of people-watching and road rage – that can be done inexpensively in Southern California. The area from Los Angeles to San Diego dominated a recent Forbes magazine list of most expensive zip codes, regional gas prices ($2.09 per gallon) rank well above the national average and San Diego Padres ticket prices ($27.43) ranked 12th out of 29 teams in 2008, this for a team that hasn’t won a post-season series since 1998.
So it went that the notion, if not the execution, of a Southern California golf odyssey would require something resembling the GDP of a small Caribbean nation.
That’s not to say the idyllic landscape that stretches from the Mexico border into the OC is devoid of quality golf. Far from it, La Costa Resort, long a Tour staple, offers architectural variety and lavish accommodations. Nearby Four Seasons Resort Aviara is a pleasing mixture of comfort golf and rolling vistas, and no national ranking is complete without the classic likes of Los Angeles’ Riviera and Bel-Air country clubs or Santa Barbara’s Valley Club of Montecito.
Yet, without the means, or an accommodating member, it would take a federally funded bailout to enjoy Southern California’s “A list” offerings. Or at least it seemed until Jamie Mulligan, the director of golf at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, mused: “You could start in LA, play Recreation Park, Pelican Hill, Torrey Pines, all the way back to Tijuana Country Club. You could have an amazing golf trip and do it pretty reasonably.”
From Mulligan’s soulful insight was born the idea of SoCal on a budget. Start in downtown San Diego, play Coronado Municipal Golf Club – considered by many the hidden gem in the Southern California haystack – and Balboa Park Municipal Golf Club before hopping the regional rail line, “The Coaster,” to points north.
Located on the south side of the Coronado hardly 15 minutes from San Diego International Airport, the muni opened in 1957 and, at least from a pricing standpoint, never progressed. Advanced tee times are $38, $25 if you want to take your chances for a walk-up round. For the truly cost conscience, twilight rates top out at $13, that’s without a golf cart but includes all the sweeping views of San Diego Bay one can manage.
“(Coronado) has seven holes right on the bay and the fairways are always in great condition,” said Jon Law, a former Tour rep and life-long San Diego native. “It’s harder to get on than Torrey Pines, but it’s worth it.”
Before jumping on The Coaster – fares are $5 and include up to two hours of transfers – enjoy a quick nine at Balboa Park. Green fees are slightly higher and the views not as engaging, but no tour of Southern California golf is complete without at least a taste of Balboa and its dramatic 18th hole, dubbed by some the original cardiac hill.
The Coaster starts slow, like a Coen Brothers movie, winding east, away from the Pacific Ocean, out of downtown and through the northern suburbs before wheeling left just past Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and into the heart of Southern California golf – Torrey Pines.
The Solana Beach stop is about three miles past the seaside muni, but the ride back down Old Highway 101 and the anticipation of visiting the historic pitch is worth the double back.
Asked once his favorite among Torrey’s twin gems, Tour player and Southern Californian Charley Hoffman didn’t hesitate: “The old South (Course, before the 2001 Rees Jones makeover) and the new North.”
If Jones’ redo of the South is of the Extreme Makeover variety, the North has undergone only slight alterations since William Bell unveiled it in 1957. The subtle nip/tucks play well with the locals and the hired guns who assume the run of the place early each Tour season for the Buick Invitational. The North may be one of the shortest on Tour (6,874 yards) and easiest (the North ranked 34th out of 54 courses in 2008 with a 71.542 stroke average), but its postcard views and classic qualities make it a favorite for part-timers and play-for-pay types.
“It’s kind of sad, my course is a parking lot right now,” lamented Brandt Snedeker, who carded a back-nine 27 (he started on No. 10) on the North seven rounds into his Tour career in 2007, during last year’s U.S. Open which was played on the South layout.
Snedeker’s “parking lot” was a reference to the amount of infrastructure built on the North Course during last year’s U.S. Open. But the layout has rebounded quickly and was back in the Buick rotation less than seven months after Tiger Woods made history with his 14th major championship.
“The golf course operations staff did a phenomenal job (on the North Course),” said Tom Wilson, the Buick Invitational tournament director. “We had planned to reopen the North on Nov. 1, but by Sept. 1 we were able to reopen all 18. It just kept getting better and better.”
Overnight in Del Mar, the center of the North County area and home to two of the region’s best watering holes, The Brigantine, located on the edges of the Del Mar Race Track and home to the must-try fish taco, and Jimmy O’s, a second home for many caddies Buick week.
Oceanside is at the extreme north end of the county and convenience, almost as much as curiosity, drives the traveler off the train and seven blocks inland to Center City Golf Course at Goat Hill. Only semi-affectionately dubbed “The Goat,” Center City lays claim to the title of San Diego’s oldest course and for just $12 a player can cover an interesting, if not a tad dated, layout.
San Juan Capistrano is the first stop in the OC and the first deviation from the blue light tour. Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point is a few miles, and more than a few dollars, off the itinerary, but a justifiable indulgence.
Monarch Beach is pricier than any other stop, with rates ranging from $85 to $190 for weekday times, and the golf demands full concentration throughout, but the views are worth the cost to your budget and psyche. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design features some of the best on-course ocean scenery this side of Cypress Point and a pair of thinking man’s golf courses that eschew today’s bomb-and-gouge mentality.
The final stop on the SoCal leg is Long Beach and the William Bell-designed Recreation Park Golf Course. Although non-descript at first blush, the “Big Rec” is every bit the classic muni of Torrey Pines or Bethpage in New York. For $30 players can walk the same fairways that produced the prolific likes of Tour twentysomethings John Mallinger and John Merrick.
Long before Paul Goydos sported a Long Beach “Dirtbags” hat at last year’s Players Championship, he was a member of the Recreation Park men’s club, winning the club championship in 1981, ’84, ’85, ’86 and ’88. The two-time Tour winner is still a member of the men’s club and can be found combing its well-used fairways.
“If you told me I had to pick one course to play I’d put on some jeans and head to Recreation Park,” Mulligan said. “They have Poa greens and holes that go right and left. It’s just fun golf.”
The golf – like so many SoCal bargains – can be affordable as well, but Mulligan didn’t have to add that.
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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”